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Partially-Concealed-Label Gag

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A comedy device where a character misjudges the meaning of a sign or banner because part of it is concealed. This leads to them making a wrong decision which they soon have to regret with hilarious results.

Compare Signs of Disrepair, where certain letters of the sign are missing to spell out something different. See Cue Card Pause for when a sentence is misleading because it's incomplete. See Stopped Reading Too Soon for a more dramatic self-inflicted variation of this trope.


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    Asian Animation 
  • In the Simple Samosa episode "Maa Mooli", Samosa and his gang are directed to a junkyard to cure Dhokla's bad luck. The outside of the junkyard has a sign on the front that looks like it says "Anger", confusing Samosa, but after the gang goes into the junkyard, some gunk on the sign falls off and reveals the sign actually says "Danger".

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Buster Keaton liked this gag:
    • The Navigator has a scene where he has to enter pier 2. He comes across pier 12 where a post covers the "1" on the sign to make it look like pier 2. So he enters the wrong pier and boat and unwillingly ends up on the open sea.
    • Seven Chances features this twice:
      • In one scene, Buster sees a human-size poster of an attractive actress in front of a theatre and decides to bribe the bouncer to get into her changing room. Then a stagehand comes and removed a crate in front of the poster and reveals that the actress was actually an actor dressed as a lady. Cue Buster coming out of the changing room all bruised up. Watch the scene here.
      • In another scene, Buster tries to escape a horde of angry women by rushing into a Turkish Bath. What he didn't know was that he actually crashed the Lady's day at the bath. Turns out the sign at the entrance was covered up by a pedestrian. Watch the scene here.
  • In Cabin Boy, a cow is blocking an arrow on a sign; as a result, instead of going to Golden Mist Seaport and boarding the luxury liner the Queen Catherine, Nathaniel Mayweather instead goes to Backtown and boards the fishing boat The Filthy Whore, triggering the main plot of the film.
  • The Smurfs: Clumsy Smurf sees a sign that appears to read "Go This Way" while running from Gargamel. As he runs in the sign's direction, he bumps a bush covering it, revealing that it says "Do Not Go This Way." The sign actually leads to the dangerous Blue Portal, which takes him to the real world.
  • In National Lampoon's European Vacation, Clark takes the family on a side trip from their game show prize vacation to visit their relatives in Germany. They're looking for house six ("6") and it appears they found it and introduce themselves to the couple living there. Just after they step inside, a leaf falls away from the number sign, revealing that it actually says sixteen ("16"). Clark and his family stay with the couple for a night and leave without ever noticing the couple was not their relatives.
  • Paddington (2014) has Paddington mistake a car for a taxi, but really the door was open, so it reads, "Taxidermist".
  • In American Pie, Finch, who refuses to use the toilets at school, has an acute attack of diarrhea and doesn't have time to get home. Stifler "helpfully" points him to the restroom while covering up the first part of the "Women" sign. Embarrassment ensues.

  • Captain Underpants
    • In George and Harold's comic about the lunch ladies, a teacher accidentally creates zombies by burying the dead lunch ladies on a hill with a sign saying "bury dead stuff here". After he leaves, lightning strikes a tree covering the sign, revealing it saying: "Warning: this hill is haunted. Whatever you do, DON'T bury dead stuff here."
    • George and Harold make this a Running Gag in their Hairy Potty spin-off comic; the titular werewolf-toilet both enjoys sabotaging signs in this manner and often does so accidentally in his battles with Captain Underpants. For instance, on a billboard reading, "My homemade buttermilk bread smells great! It's awfully good!", he'll crash through the entire right half of the sign so it says "My butt smells awful". One particularly sadistic instance had him laser off a portion of a sign reading "Please drive very slowly over tracks; children at play" to make it "Please drive slowly over chidren".
  • In The Dumb Bunnies, the Bunnies unintentionally steal someone's car at a car wash, since the car was covering up the "WASH" in "FREE CAR WASH".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrested Development: Tobias is looking for work as an actor, so he goes to a newsstand and grabs what he thinks is an issue of Actor Pull magazine. But part of the cover was obscured by the magazine right next to it—he actually grabbed the latest issue of Tractor Pull, a magazine for farmers.
  • The Benny Hill Show
    • Hill is standing next to a sign that says "HOMES TO LET." Several attractive women enter the building. They leave, and one of them slaps him in the face. An adjustment is made to the sign: "HOMMES TOILET."
    • In a similar gag, Benny is putting up a sign saying "JOHN SMITH, THE RAPIST." Jackie comes out gesturing wildly at the sign. Benny moves the lower sign to make it read "JOHN SMITH, THERAPIST."
  • Good Luck Charlie: In "Snow Show, Part One", the Duncan family visit a ski resort. P.J. decides to go snowboarding, and comes across a sign that is halfway obscured by snow and appears to say "TRAIL". When P.J. goes snowboarding, he accidentally knocks the snow off the sign, revealing it to say "NOT A TRAIL", and resulting in him taking a tumble.
  • In one episode of The Nanny, Fran goes to her high school class reunion. At the reunion, a sign on the wall reads "Class of 198-", only for the remaining number to be obscured by Fran standing in front of it, likely to prevent the audience from learning how old she is. The full sign remains unrevealed.
  • Through the Dragon's Eye: Scott and Boris come across a sign while ascending the mountains of Widge that appears to say "Road Safe." Turns out the Widgets covered the prefix and it actually says "Road Unsafe." They end up caught in a rockslide moments later.

    Video Games 
  • Superliminal: While traversing through a dark, horror-themed area, the player sees a sign through a doorway that reads "DIE". Going through the doorway reveals the "sign" to actually be stacked cases which read "DIET SODA".

  • Pebble and Wren: When Pebble is looking for a job, he sees a sign saying, "Small monsters". He gets excited because he is a small monster, only to find that the sign actually says, "Small monsters need not apply."
  • The Buttersafe comic "Future Con 2010" parodies this trope. A group of friends plans to attend a science-fiction convention because one of them received a flyer about it. Said friend has held onto the flyer for a week and loudly declares "I haven't even moved my thumb, which is covering what I can only assume is an inconsequential portion of the flyer that, if revealed, would in no way alter the assumptions I've made about what kind of convention this is." We then see that the flyer reads "FU***TURE CON," with said thumb covering up the missing letters—and cut to a group of people dressed as furniture.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Cinematic Titanic: While watching Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks, Trace Beaulieu mentions how much he loves the original novel Frankenstein. None of the other riffers were aware of this fact, so Trace shows off his novelty t-shirt to prove it:
    Trace Beaulieu: Why do you think I wear this t-shirt all the time? [opens his suit jacket to show off the shirt]
    Josh Elvis Weinstein: [reading the shirt] "I Like Frank."
    [Trace contorts himself so the rest of the shirt is visible...]
    Josh: [continued reading] "...enstein's Monster." Oh!
    Frank Conniff: I always thought that shirt was about me! I'm a little sad now.
  • PeanutButterGamer: In his "Goodwill Games #9" video, PBG plays the PC adaptation of Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?. While playing the game, he refers to the character of Edward as "Ard" due to the first half of Edward's name tag being obscured by Logan's head.
  • Search for Sandvich: The Medic watches the Sniper's video of Twin Peaks. However, the Medic pauses the video on a frame where the town's name is partially off-camera, and he deduces that they must be in a place called "Twin Pea".
  • At the beginning of Scott The Woz's episode on Star Fox Zero, Scott is seen chugging a bottle of "Ru Alcohol", with his thumb partially on the label, stating that if there's anything underneath his thumb, it can wait until later. At the end of the episode, Scott finally moves his thumb to discover that the "Ru Alcohol" he's been drinking is actually rubbing alcohol.
    Scott: That's where the death-y aftertaste came from! I should really work on my thumb placement more. (Passes out on desk)
  • Unraveled: In his video on E3, Brian David Gilbert wears a shirt satiring 'Gamer' apparel that includes multiple slogans on it, including 'I love eating', 'Classic Gaming', and 'Do you?' at the bottom. When he throws a jacket on over it, letters conspicuously disappear to form the message 'I LOVE EATING ASS DO YOU?'

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons is big on this:
    • In the "Itchy and Scratchy" sketch in "Cape Feare", Itchy purposely covers up the letter "s" on an advertisement board reading "We spay your pet - $75" so it would read "We pay your pet - $75". Scratchy falls for the offer and ends up Strapped to an Operating Table. Watch the scene here.
    • In the episode "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", Homer is at an air show where he spots a banner beyond a crowd of people advertising "Free Duff". Overjoyed, he heads over to the counter and empties 8 cups at once. Then the crowd dissolves and we get a better look at the banner which actually reads "Alcohol-Free Duff - $6". Homer has to resort to a fake Fainting attack in order to get out of paying those $48. Watch the scene here.
    • In the "Treehouse of Horror I" segment "Hungry Are the Damned" (a parody of To Serve Man), Lisa finds a cookbook titled "How To Cook Humans". One of the aliens blows dust off the cover, revealing the title says "How To Cook For Humans". Then Lisa blows more dust, showing "How To Cook Forty Humans", then the alien takes the book back and blows off even more dust, showing the full title "How To Cook For Forty Humans".
    • In "Bart of Darkness", Bart thinks Ned Flanders has murdered his wife and sends Lisa into his house to investigate. Lisa goes to the freezer and pulls out a green bag labeled "human head", horrifying her and Bart. She is relieved after wiping off more frost, revealing it to be a "Schuman Farms head of lettuce".
    • In "The Springfield Files", Homer finds a sign that reads "DIE" while stumbling around Springfield drunk. He screams in horror, then the wind blows a tree out of the way, revealing the sign to say "DIET." Homer screams even louder at this.
    • "And Maggie Makes Three" tells the story of Maggie's birth. Homer quits his job at the power plant to work at a bowling alley, but he has to return to the power plant eventually because he makes more money working there and he needs to support Maggie. When he returns, Mr. Burns puts a plaque over his desk that reads "Don't forget, you're here forever." In the present day, Homer has now put pictures of Maggie over the plaque, making it read "Do it for her."
    • In "Homer Defined", Homer almost causes a nuclear meltdown when he ignores the core temperature gauge on his dashboard, which was obscured by excess jelly from a donut he was eating.
      Homer: Okay, okay, don't panic. Whoever's problem this is, I'm sure they know how to handle it.
      (at this point, the increasing heat causes an air bubble to blow from the stain and burst, revealing the gauge behind it)
    • In "They Saved Lisa's Brain", Lisa sees Reverend Lovejoy driving the "Book Mobile" and she advises him to get anything by Jane Austen. As the van moves away from the branch hiding part of the vehicle, the slogan is revealed to actually be "Book Burning Mobile".
    • In "Midnight Towboy", Homer is driving around in search of milk, but none of the places he goes to have any. At one point, he sees a sign, partially obscured by a tree, which appears to say "MILK", but actually reads "Mr. T Is the Lion King".
    • In "Apocalypse Cow", Homer is going to save Bart's cow, Lou, from slaughter. He looks through binoculars and sees a "laughter house," which he likes the idea of. He zooms out and notices it's a slaughterhouse, and screams.
    • In this official Sky 1 channel bumper that aired in the UK, Scratchy is being wheeled through a hospital and sees a sign that reads "A&E" (an emergency room). He gets closer and finds it to be a Super Killing Laser. While Scratchy remains initially unharmed from the laser, the operating table he's strapped to flips over and is then shattered by the laser, cutting him apart.
    • In "Treehouse of Horror XVI", Bart gets into a fight at the zoo. He lands in the peacock habitat, and is relieved, until a peacock moves and reveals it to be a mutant peacock habitat. The peacocks reveal their many eyes and close in on Bart.
    • In "Lost Our Lisa", Lisa gets lost taking the wrong bus and stumbles upon a military base.
      Lisa: How could I confuse Bus 22 with 22A? Area 51? Ha, I found Area 51!
      Guard: No, ma'am. [steps back] This is Area 51-A.
    • "From Beer to Paternity" does it three times in quick succession, with Duffman entering what he thinks is a bar for women and spraying them with beer, before being chased out by a bunch of angry female lawyers. These three buildings are the Women's Bar Association, Ladies' Public Defenders Society, and Women's Legal Diversity Initiative. The first two times, the concealed word was covered up by pigeons, so Duffman shooed the pigeons away from the third one before barging in, only for that sign to be a faulty neon sign.
  • Inverted in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Krusty Koncessionaires", which features Mr. Krabs with a new advertising banner for the Krusty Krab:
    The Krusty Krab
    Krabby Patties are yummy
    Please your face
    Tonight would be great!
    However, the banner gets bent as he tries to get it up on the concert stage, it reads
    The Krusty Krab
    To eat!
The crowd isn't impressed.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures:
    • In "Venison, Anyone?" (part of "Mr. Popular's Rule of Cool"), Montana Max tries to hunt a street-smart deer named Vinnie. At one point, Vinnie stands in front of a sign that appears to say, DEER CAVE, and tricks Monty into going into the cave. However, his head and his right arm were blocking out the rest of the sign, revealing it to say, DEER KEEP OUT! BEAR CAVE.
    • In "High Toon", the Coyote Gang drink a bunch of water after eating very spicy chili, which is immediately followed by fast square dancing. Between the chili, the water, and the exercise, they get an intense case of Potty Emergency, and run into what appears to be an outhouse that says GUYS. Buster locks them in it, revealing it to be a cage that says BAD GUYS.
  • BoJack Horseman: In "Hooray! Todd Episode!", Todd attends a fashion show as a celebrity's date. He reads a sign as "El Entrance" and, assuming it's Spanish, walks in to join the audience. However, a toucan's beak was blocking the sign, which really said "Model Entrance," and Todd ends up on the runway.
  • Hey Arnold!: In "Oskar Can't Read?", as a final test to see if Oskar has conquered his illiteracy and learned to read, Arnold drops him off in a far-off part of town with written directions on how to get back home. When Oskar gets to the part where he has to take a subway to Sheffingtown, he looks up at the train schedule, which is partially obscured by a cart carrying a tall stack of luggage. The sign reads that a train going toward "Sheffing" is in one direction, and Oskar goes that way. Then the cart moves aside, and we see that Oskar has boarded a train to Sheffingston—the Sheffingtown train was the other way.
  • A variant happens in a Robot Chicken sketch, where the Wonder Pets rescue a baby cow. They think the cow is sad and bring him to a nearby building labelled "Laughterhouse" to cheer him up. However, the owner of the building then arrives and comments that he forgot to paint the letter "S" on his slaughterhouse.
  • In the CatDog episode "Battle of the Bands", Catdog joins a "battle of the bands" contest after seeing a poster that reads "Battle of the Bands, Nearburg's Best", along with a $1,000 reward. Part of the poster flies off and lands at the Greasers' feet, instead reading "Battle of Nearburg's Best". The Greasers enter the battle too but mistake it for a literal fight rather than a music battle between bands.
  • In the Arthur episode "Arthur Rides the Bandwagon", Arthur tries to buy a Woogles toy, but all stores have sold out of them. He spots a street vendor he believed was selling them and bought one. The vendor moved the watch display uncovering the first letter revealing it to be Poogles to the audience accompanied by a Losing Horns background sound and Buster's disgust as he walks by.
  • Futurama: In "Proposition Infinity", Bender goes on a graffiti spree, posting pixel-art pictures of his own face in all kinds of inconvenient places. At one point he puts the picture on a traffic sign reading "FREEWAY ENDS AT NEXT CORNER", covering up just enough of the message to make it instead read "FREE CORN". Immediately after, the Hyper-Chicken drives by, gets excited at the prospect of free corn, then crashes his car into the end of the freeway.


Video Example(s):


Come for a lovely ride!

Paddington mistakes a car for a taxi, but really the door was open, so it reads, "Taxidermist".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / PartiallyConcealedLabelGag

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